Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Thursday 31 March 2011

Vestments from Abbey Dore

Whilst looking for pictures of maniples for the last post I came across this picture of a velvet kneeler, embroidered burse, stole and maniple, thought to have belonged to the Cistercian house at Abbey Dore in Herfordshire, and now in the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Velvet kneeler, embroidered burse, stole and maniple

© V&A

I was unaware of their survival until today, and thought readers might also be interested to see this picture.

I have not so far in my travels visited Abbey Dore, but part of the monastic church still serves as the parish church, having been restored in the early seventeenth century by Viscount Scudamore.


I see that maniples are making news on the blogs - when are they not I am tempted to say.

Fr Blake writes about the latest discussion, with a link to Fr Zuhlsdorf, here and Fr Hunwicke writes from his experience about the fate of some maniples here.

There are articles on the vestment and its history here and here.


Regular readers will not be surprised that I am a firm believer in the use of maniples, and cannot understand any good reason for their being made optional and hence abandoned in the sacristy. They are an ancient and intrinsic part of the priestly vesture, and excuses about them being inconvenient to wear really cut no ice, or for that matter, butter.

Let us hope priests start wearing, as I know some do, the maniple when celebrating the Ordinary Form. When the then Bishop of Ebbsfleet came to St Thomas' here in Oxford for a Confirmation in 2004 we put out a maniple which he wore, and he cited the case of Victorian ritualists who went to prison for using such liturgical vesture.

Maybe we should decorate sacristy doors with the slogan "No maniple, No Mass" or Fr Z's "Tie one on." Perhaps one could adapt one of those nauseating pictures of a kitten clutching a tree branch and bearing the words "Help me to hold on Lord", beloved of a certain type of wet liberal cleric, to one with "Every time a priest celebrates Mass without a maniple God kills a kitten."

Years ago, in my Anglican days in Yorkshire, the curate, who was of advanced Modern Catholic Views - i.e exclusively Novus Ordo adapted more or less to Anglican forms - opined in the sacristy that, and I quote him exactly, "A maniple is a pain in the a**e." I was sorely tempted to voice the opinion "Well, if you will wear it round there Father it probably is", but I thought better of antagonising a former serviceman on such a clearly sensitive issue.

Six years on

Today is the sixth anniversary of my reception into the Church at the Oxford Oratory.

I am reposting the piece I wrote a year ago about the anniversary, with a few emendations and additions.

It was Thursday in the Octave of Easter, and chosen because it enabled friends and relatives who would not have been able to attend at the Easter Vigil to be present and, in one case, to be my sponsor.

I took as my confirmation name Philip - not only the name of the founder of the Oratory and of an Apostle, but also my father's first name and one that I had always liked. So John Robert became John Robert Philip. I subsequently went to the expense of adding the name by deed poll, so I can insist on officialdom recognising my spiritual journey.

As it happened, by being received when I was, I thereby became one of the last Catholics to be received into the Church in the pontificate of Pope John Paul II - I feel I squeezed through the door of history in that respect.

As I made my decision to seek reception I codified my ideas into nine categories or groups. St Edmund Campion had his Decem Rationes which he placed so provocatively in St Mary's Church in Oxford in 1581. Mine are more personal perhaps, but, in that they may interest others, here are my Novem Rationes of 2005:

1. I believed all that the Catholic Church believed - so why was I not in full communion with it? I read the Catechism through and found nothing from which to dissent within it.

2. In particular I accepted the claims of the Papacy and its necessity in order to maintain orthodoxy and unity.

3. As a historian I appreciated the Catholic case for the nature of the Church and the Papacy, and the fact of its historical continuity - Walter Ullman's point that the Papacy is the one institution that links the Apostolic age to the Atomic age reverberates in my mind.

4. The call to Unity - not only the principal of Ut unum sint but also the specific claims to expressing that unity with all other Catholics through the Holy See as described by the Fathers.

5. The Catholic Church was seen to act on issues contingent upon Christian belief - Life issues might be the most obvious, but there were others, and with an authentic response being made.

6. I realised that my historic sympathies were with Catholicism - which side would I have been on, or at least believed I would have been on or wanted to be on in say, the Reformation? Well it was clear. My heart lay with the Catholic cause.

7. The state of Anglicanism was not encouraging. For Traditionalist Anglo-Catholics the situation was one of increasing isolation, and the sense that a Third Province would not be granted.

8. Much as I loved my Anglican places of worship - Pusey House and St Thomas in Oxford - I felt that I was called to move on. I was at an age when I still could make a change, but that there was not time to delay. If this was the time, then so be it.

9. I thought that many of my Anglican friends were moving or would move into full communion with Rome. Those friendships, based and rooted in a shared spiritual life, were very important to my own spiritual development, and they were pointing all in the same direction.

Looking back six years later I have never had cause to regret my decision.

I still endorse those nine sets of ideas.

The last three invite some additional comments.

The Church of England has continued on its way, and has failed to have the generosity to provide for Traditionalist Anglo-Catholics. Anglicanorum Coetibus has been issued - I pray it will be successful in extending the unity of the Church to others of like faith and mind outside its formal bounds. Now in 2011 we are witnessing the Ordinariate being established, and I can help to support those joining it

I am still on excellent terms with friends from Pusey House and St Thomas', and I rejoiced at Fr Hunwicke's appointment to the latter in 2007. It has been good to see all that is happening at both institutions for the Catholic cause. It was very good for my humility that they could manage and survive without me. I retain enormously happy memories of my time at both places and at the churches I worshipped at in Yorkshire before I came to Oxford.

As to my friends - well I was the second of our group to make the move, and three more had followed by last year. In the last twelve months two more married couples, one with three children, from that set of friends have made that same move. Along the way I have made other new friends amongst those converting, and I have been made very welcome in my new spiritual home. I am extremely lucky to have the Oratory and also SS Gregory and Augustine as places in which to worship here in Oxford.

A friend and I likened the process not to swimming the Tiber, but to paddling across - when we reached the opposite bank we found friends waiting in the deck-chairs to hand one a towel to dry one's feet and then to hand you a missal or breviary to read as you sat down to watch who would be next to come over.

May St Philip Neri, Bl. John Henry Newman and all the saints continue to pray for me, and for those seeking their home in the Church.

Wednesday 30 March 2011

An Imperial census return

With the census still in mind I am reminded of the story of the Emperor Francis Joseph insisting on filling in his census form himself, and giving as his occupation "Self-employed public servant."


The story is sometimes told so as to imply that he was an uninspired man with a form-filling mentality. The truth is different - anyone who read's Alan Palmer's excellent biography of the Emperor realises that in addition to his dedication to his duties as sovereign Francis Joseph had a very dry sense of humour and a taste for irony.

The story also illustrates a particularly Habsburg characteristic, that of dedication to governance with a sense of resignation to doing that which God had called them to do. Practical governmental intelligence and hours of desk work are the hallmark of the dynasty.The dreamers amongst them, or those who became overly philosophical, such as Emperor Joseph II, or more tragically, the Emperor Maximillian of Mexico or Crown Prince Rudolf, were not typical of the dynasty. Doing one's duty by God and those you were called to rule in a slightly prosaic way, relieved by humour and sound common sense made them the most successful of family businesses. With other monarchies the dynasty changed, with the Habsburgs the countries did.

Tuesday 29 March 2011

The Battle of Towton - 550th anniversary

Today is the 550th anniversary of the Battle of Towton, fought on Palm Sunday 1461, and probably the bloodiest battle ever fought on English soil.

Last year I posted about the battle, and you can read, or re-read, those posts at Palm Sunday Field 1461 and Towton links.

The following piece is adapted from the RichardIII Society website:

The Opening Barrage at Towton by Graham Turner
Reproduced by kind permission of the artist

Following their success at the second battle of St Albans the Lancastrian army moved south towards London but the city was chary of opening its gates to Queen Margaret’s army despite the fact she was re-united with the king. Margaret decided not to press the matter and withdrew with her army to the north. Meanwhile Edward, the new Duke of York and the Earl of Warwick, following their respective victory at Mortimer's Cross and defeat at St Albans, were reunited at either Chipping Norton or Burford and marched on the capital. The young duke felt sufficiently secure in his position to take the crown and on 4 March 1461 he was declared king as Edward IV. He knew that to make good his claim he had to defeat the Lancastrians once and for all. On the 5th the Duke of Norfolk left London to raise an army in his base of East Anglia and on 7 March Warwick left for the midlands to the same end. Edward remained in London for another week and then marched north.

By 27 March Warwick, leading the vanguard of the new royal army, reached Ferrybridge, the crossing for the river Aire and just eight miles south of the Lancastrians who were encamped and preparing for the battle. The bridge was badly damaged but repairs were made and Warwick crossed and made camp. Early on morning of the 28th Lord Clifford led a surprise attack on the Yorkists, who were driven back across the river and Warwick’s lieutenant, Lord FitzWalter, was killed and the earl was wounded in the leg by an arrow. Meanwhile King Edward advanced from Pontefract to find the bridge once again seriously damaged. Lord Fauconberg was sent westwards along the river to Castleford, three miles away, where he successfully crossed the Aire. He immediately marched north, caught up with Clifford, killed him and scattered his force. By the evening of the 28th the Yorkist host had crossed the river Aire and moved northward to meet the Lancastrian army.

The 29th March 1461, Palm Sunday, was a bitterly cold windy day with snow on the ground. The Lancastrian army, under the command of the 24-year-old Duke of Somerset, may have been 30,000 strong, and was drawn up on heathland north of a ridge between the villages of Towton and Saxton. His two main ‘battles’, one under his own command and the other under the command of the Earl of Northumberland, were side by side with archers to the front and a small rearguard behind them. King Edward, south of the ridge, ranged his archers, under the command of Lord Fauconberg, across the width of his two ‘battles’, one commanded by himself and the other by Warwick. As with Somerset, he had a small rear guard but the young king’s major worry was the non-arrival of the Duke of Norfolk and the East Anglians. To the left of the northward-facing Yorkist army was the river Cock which meandered westwards and surrounded Castle Hill Wood on three sides. North and south of the wood, the heathland fell sharply to the river and to the right of the Yorkist army was a plateau. The battlefield was anything but spacious. There has been speculation that the Lancastrians hid a force within the woods to ambush the Yorkists but this has not been substantiated.

The battle began mid-morning and the first Yorkist volleys of arrows were aided by the wind to find their mark within the Lancastrian ranks. The Yorkist archers immediately moved back and the Lancastrian response fell on empty ground. Fauconberg’s archers were then ordered forward to retrieve the spent missiles. The first advance probably came from the Lancastrians with Somerset’s ‘battle’ moving towards King Edward at a greater speed than Northumberland upon Warwick’s ‘battle’. The clash between the armies was intense within the restricted arena of battle, the fighting was hand to hand and the whole battle became a melée. The turning point was probably the arrival of the Duke of Norfolk and his men who flung themselves onto the left flank of the Lancastrians. Gradually the Lancastrian line gave way until late in the day it eventually broke and the troops fled towards the river, their pathway becoming known as Bloody Meadow. The river Cock was in full flood, and hundreds were drowned. So ended one the longest and bloodiest battles fought on English soil. As many as 28,000 may have been killed, the Yorkists possibly losing 8,000. Amongst the Lancastrians the Earl of Northumberland, Lord Dacre, Lord Welles and Sir Andrew Trollope were killed and the Earls of Devon and Wiltshire were captured and executed shortly afterwards although the Duke of Somerset and the Duke of Exeter escaped. The dethroned King Henry and his Queen and son, who had stayed in York during the battle, fled with them to Scotland. The victorious young King Edward was now free to return to London and his coronation.

The Rout
Artwork from 'Campaign 120: 'Towton 1461: England's bloodiest battle' by Graham Turner
© Osprey Publishing Ltd.

The livery is that of the Earl of Northumberland and the Percy family

I would add the thought that Towton wasa decisive battle, which made the Yorkist seizure of power effective, even thought the 1460s were punctuated by attempts to restablish the Lancastrians, as did happen in 1471. Not until after the battle of Tewkesbury that year was King Edward IV secure. Whether the change of King and royal house solved anything is difficult to tell. What it did do was make a complex situation more so, and the fighting and deaths of 1460-61, and of the following decade made for greater division, and created new individuals and groups with much to lose or gain. Moreover by changing the dynastic line and succession, removing not a few potential heirs along the way the continuing issue of the sixteenth century monarchy was to come to the fore - just who was, or was not, the heir apparent or presumptive?

As with my post last year I will end by asking the prayers of my readers for all those slain at Towton or in its aftermath, and for all the combatants.

Monday 28 March 2011

The Census and Domesday Book

As I filled in my census form yesterday it struck me, as it did ten and twenty years ago, that I was rather surprised how general the questions were, and indeed there is much that might be asked of one that is already in the public domain, and there would be no harm or intrusion in asking. That does not mean that I favour big government - I don't by any means. I do wonder,
and possibly worry, what modern government can conjure out of such points as whether we consider our health to be very good, or good or whatever. Conversely why not ask which denomination of Christian we consider ourselves to be. Our qualifications are matters of public record - why not ask us for them? I suppose I am feeling frustrated on behalf of future generations of historians.

Fortunately for us pursuers of the past the people behind the census do not fear the Divine retribution visited upon King David when he held a census of his kingdom.

Mercifully such fears did not deter King William I from commissioning Domesday Book, which celebrates its 925th anniverasry this year. Now that is a lot more interesting than the current Census form..., and given its date a lot more remarkable than anything modern government comes up with.

Much as the Domesday survey shocked the author of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle by its meticulous enumeration, to produce such a detailed digest of information in so short a period by local enquiry is a tribute to the complexity and sophistication of the governmental and social processes of late Anglo-Saxon and Anglo-Norman England. One feels a respect for the process which produced Domesday which one does not feel for any of census results from 1801 onwards.

It is also worth bearing in mind that the 1166 enquiries of King Henry II into feudal rights and the Quo Warranto hearings of King Edward I in the 1270s did not yield so succinct a result - becuase there was too much information to process. Given the practical difficulties of life in the eleventh, twelfth and thirteenth centuries it increases respect and admiration for what our ancestors did achieve.


A page from the Berkshire section of Domesday Book, with the King's lands Terra Regis enumerated begining with Windelsora - or as we know it, Windsor

Image: London Weekend Break.net

Richeldis 950

Having heard that there was to be the inaguration of six months of celebrations to mark the 950th anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady to Richeldis de Faverches at Walsingham in 1061 with a Mass in Westminster Cathedral last Saturday I thought this called for a day out in London. Walsingham has been an important place in my pilgrimage of faith over many years and I wanted to join in the celebrations.

The statue of Our Lady of Walsingham in the restored Slipper Chapel
at the Roman Catholic National Shrine

By a fortunate coincidence a good friend and fellow blogger was passing through Oxford and we arranged to meet up and travel up on the coach together to the cathedral. Thus the Last Knight and the Clever Boy set forth (which sounds a bit like something from Lewis Carroll, or "Childe Harold to the dark tower came" - or, methinks, shades of Cervantes...). Due to delays and demonstrations in London about government policies the coach was delayed and we did not arrive at the cathedral until the offertory. Nonetheless we were there, and able to participate in the occasion.

It was impressive to see the cathedral full and to see the presence of the Anglican Shrine Guardians escorting the statue from the Slipper Chapel in the procession at the end, along with Knights of the Holy Sepulchre and Knights of Malta, clergy from across the country, including the Ordinariate, a goodly numberr of diocesan and assistant bishops and the Archbishop of Westminster as principal celebrant.

Afterwards, as is usual on these occasions, there was the opportunity to meet up with other friends, and make new ones, on the cathedral piazza, before going off for a Lenten, non-alcoholic, drink in a pub and then a meal at an Italian restaurant before we went our seperate ways.

File:OL Walsingham IV.jpg

Saturday 26 March 2011

First catch your swan

If, having read Fr Ray Blake's recent post on feasting to mark the Annunciation, you did roast a swan for dinner yesterday and want to sample more late medieval fare, the site from which he took the recipe can be found here, and offers a wide range of culinary possibilities.

A friend of mine did want to have swan at a dinner he was organising for Oriel historians. When the difficulties of obtaining such provender were pointed out he began to think of going out on the Thames with a punt gun... ( In the event we had goose for dinner).

Friday 25 March 2011

Order of the Annunziata

Italy has just been celebrating the 150th anniversary of the proclamation of the united Kingdom in 1861 - which still excluded Venetia (1866), the residual Papal State(1870) and the Trentino (1919). The modern republic included in its invitations members of the House of Savoy, led by Prince Emmanuel Philibert.

The Aosta branch of the House recently attended a usus antiquior Mass in the Pantheon in Rome - burial place of the Kings of Italy - and pictures can be seen here of that occasion.

The Mad Monarchist recently had some reflections on the House of Savoy and Italian unification which can be read here. Like him I see the problems of the Savoys stemming from a dangerous alliance with forces in the process of unification which were essentially hostile to the principle of monarchy and the traditions it represented. Politically it was a case of riding a tiger.

Again as he points out since 1946 the dynasty has not been without its problems, and there is now the dispute as to who is the heir to King Umberto II - outlined in a link from the second of the sites listed infra.

I am writing about this today because the oldest and most distinguished Order of the Savoyard-Italian monarchy was that of the Supreme Order of the Most Holy Annunciation. With a predecessor founded in 1350, and a virtually continuous history from 1362 it is second only to the Garter in antiquity amongst European orders of chivalry.

There is an article about it, with links to ones on the other Savoyard royal orders here, and another, more detailed one, from which have taken the pictures of the insignia here. It has links to articles about the dispute as to the succession. There is a third article here, from the American group of the Savoy Orders, which has illustrations and more about the history of the Order.

The star of the Order

The star of the Order

The design can be seen more clearly in this example

The Collar and star of the Order of the Annunciation

Image: Almanach de la Cour

The Annunciation

Today is the Feast of the Annunciation and an opportunity to share another wonderful early fifteenth century painting by Stefan Lochner.

Photo: © Dombauarchiv Köln, Matz und Schenk

Stefan Lochner
Altar of the Three Kings or the City Patrons, c. 1442.
Cologne Cathedral

Photo: © Dombauarchiv Köln, Matz und Schenk

The wings of the altar-piece can be closed to reveal a painting of the Annunciation to the Virgin. Although the scene is divided among two specially framed panels, it creates the impression of being one single image. The richly patterned gold curtain that stretches from one end of the scene to the other and the fact that the ceiling and the stone floor are both painted in perspective creates a very uniform, naturalistic space. Although the greeting of the angel entering the room through the door on the right-hand side seems entirely realistic and spontaneous, the understated colours used for the figures, the gentleness of the Virgin, and her golden nimbus create the impression of timelessness.

From the cathedral website.

Detailed views of this image:
Altar of the City Patrons, c. 1442, Closed Vase with Lilies from the Annunciation Head of the Angel of the  Annunciation Head of the Virgin of the  Annunciation Clasp of Archangel Gabriel's Coat
Dove of the Holy Spirit Altar

Thursday 24 March 2011

Usus antiquior at SS Gregory and Augustine

There will be a Missa Cantata celebrated for the Annunciation this Friday, March 25th, at 6 p.m. at SS Gregory and Augustine in Woodstock Road Oxford

In April there will be Low Masses in the usus antiquior at the church, all at 6 p.m., on the following days:

Friday April 1st - First Friday Devotion
Each Wednesday - April 6th, 13th, 20th and 27th
Thursday April 7th - First Thursday Devotion
Friday April 8th

Holy Week
Fig Monday April 18th
Holy Tuesday April 19th
Spy Wednesday April 20th

Easter Week
Easter Friday - April 29th

Wednesday 23 March 2011

Blogo ergo sum

Today is the anniversary of my first post on this blog, and it is an opportunity for me to reflect on blogging.

To begin with here is what I wrote on this day last year:

Oh no, not another blog...

Well that may be your reaction to discovering this site, but nevertheless I am going to see if I can get this running. I may well flatter myself that I have anything to say or add to current debates, but I think it is worth trying.
I have thought of setting this up for a while, and one or two friends have suggested that I should do so. They have even promised to read it if I do set it up. Another friend has helped with the initial site creation. I expect it will take me some time to get used to even the basic techniques required - please be patient. I used to think e-mail a ridiculous fad, and then I finally gave in and signed up to it. Now I have the obsessive glint in my eye upon seeing a computer of the man who has not checked his e-mail for fifteen minutes. Mobile phone? I did n't need one, until, that is, I eventually got one. This may well be the same kind of compulsion. What, you may ask, are you going to find here? I think the list of other blogs and websites I read will give you some indication of my interests and enthusiasms, but there is no harm in giving you an idea. It is Catholic - I have a fair dose of the zeal of the convert, Traditionalist - in the proper senses of that word - I believe in the positive value of a living, historic tradition, Monarchist - a subject upon which I can be militant, fascinated by History - I have been since my earliest days and memories, Medieval - that is my real love as a historian, but I am by no means exclusively interested in the middle ages - and who says we are out of them? You may well get reports on my work on Bishop Fleming, or talks I have delivered, or places I have visited, or books I have read or am reading. At times it may well end up reading like one of the late, great, Michael Wharton "Peter Simple'''s "thoughtful leaders" from The Feudal Times and Reactionary Herald.

Regular readers can reflect on whether or not I have lived up to what I wrote then - I think I have stayed very much within the parameters I indicated.

I have gained some technical skills, and enjoy hunting down images on the internet to illustrate my posts. It is a pleasure to find other blogs and websites that might be of interest and point them out to potential readers.

Adding the sitemeter last summer meant that I am now able to see how widely I am being read.

This Year's Visits by Month

It may not be good for my humility, but it is rather good to realise my efforts are being read worldwide, and I am grateful for that. I appear to have been read in nearly every European country, across the English speaking world and also Latin America and parts of Asia and the Far East It is rather surprising to find where I have regular readers of whom I have no other knowledge. I realise, of course, that many of the national 1% 's are old friends and I appreciate their continuing interest in both me and the blog. I have also made new contacts through writing the blog and received on occasion fan-mail. Once again thank you.

I will put up another post about the redesign that was carried out some weeks ago, but I am very pleased with what that has achieved.

There are times when I get withdrawal symptoms when I cannot get near acomputer to write my latest thoughts or to revise a draft - so that fear I had last year was amply justified. However it is a good mental stimulus, and helps me hone my thoughts. In some ways blogging is a modern version of the common place books or scrap books of past generations, and it is a way of keeping images and ideas together as a reference point for myself.

So, to all my readers, thank you, and please, carry on reading!

Tuesday 22 March 2011

The Panther and the Hind

Yesterday evening I finished reading The Panther and the Hind: A Theological History of Anglicanism by Fr Aidan Nichols O.P., and which was published in 1993. The title is taken from John Dryden's poem on the possibilities of reunion, which was itself published in 1687.

The Panther and the Hind: Theological History of Anglicanism

It is one of those books I know I should have read years ago, but now I have and it is an excellent study, succinct and scholarly.

It is a good time to have read it. At the conclusion on pp.179-80 Fr Nichols outlines something very much like the Ordinariate as a way forward for some Anglicans.

After commenting on the difficulty of finding a scheme to comprehend all Anglicans in reunion, he continues:

"...it does not follow that the more modest aim of repatriating a selectively defined ( yet historically not unrepresentative) Anglicanism within the continuous Catholic communion of the Church of Rome would meet with equally little success. So Drydon himself thought, in the moving plea for reunion, coupled, in its last line, with a promise of forgivess from the Recusant community for its years of persecution which forms a high point of the oratory of charity in The Hind and the Panther.

See how his Church, adorn'd with ev'ry grace.
With open arms, a kind forgiving face,
Stands ready to prevent her long-lost sons embrace.
Nor more did Joseph o'er his brethren weep,
Nor less himself could from discovery keep,
When in the crowd of suppliants they were seen,
And in their crew his best-beloved Benjamin.
That pious Joseph in the church behold,
To feed your famine, and refuse your gold;
The Joseph you exil'd, the Joseph whom you sold

The Hind and the Panther, II, 639-648
Prophetic words indeed from almost two decades ago, and we have indeed beheld a pious Joseph in the church, and one with a kind forgiving face.

Laus Deo

St Thomas of Pontefract

Today is the putative feast day of St Thomas of Pontefract. I say putative as Thomas was never formally canonised, but today is the anniversary of his death in 1322, and he did enjoy a popular cult in the decades after his death.

Thomas, Earl of Lancaster was the cousin of King Edward II, and the politics of the years 1312-1322 shaped by their bitter disagreements, which ended with Thomas' defeat at the battle of Boroughbridge in March 1322, followed by his capture and trial and conviction for treason in his own castle at Pontefract, rapidly followed by his beheading on what became known as St Thomas' Hill on the outskirts of the town. As with some other medieval rebels, such as Simon de Montfort at Evesham, a cult sprang up around his tomb in the Cluniac priory in Pontefract, around apicture in St Paul's cathedral in London and, following the deposition of King Edward II in 1326-7, attempts were made to secure Thomas' canonisation. That did not come about despite appeals to Pope John XXII, and his cultus remained local and particular to the Lancastrian family. An office hymn was composed in his honour and pilgrimages made to Pontefract in the fourteenth century. for a number of years it was very popular and survived at Pontefract at least until the dissolution of the priory in 1539. His belt was believed to assist women in child birth and his hat was believed to aid sufferers from migraine and 'rye-asthma' - hay fever. On the site of his execution a memorial chapel was built by a Lancastrian retainer, Simon Symeon in 1361. Now destroyed some fragments of worked stone were found on the site in the 1940s.

As his biographer Dr John Maddicott argues in his book Thomas' sanctity is rather vitiated by his "repulsive" character. He appears to have been violent, harsh, contrary, selfish and promiscuous. Dr Maddicott's biography for the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography of Earl Thomas and his wife Countess Alice, the heiress of Pontefract, can be read here.


Thomas, Earl of Lancaster with St George

Bodleian MS Douce 231

Image :Wikipedia

This manuscript indicates a rather more positive view of him. There has been the suggestion that the figure may be his father, Earl Edmund (d.1296), but the five points on the label on his shield may well indicate Thomas as a grandson of King Henry III. Assuming that it is Thomas he is paired with St George, who was increasingly assuming the role of the nation's patron saint.

Execution of Thomas of Lancaster, South Newington (83KB)

One surviving piece of devotion to him is the wall painting shown above in South Newington church in north Oxfordshire. The church has a wonderful series of fragments of medieval wall paintings. To that series were added a pair depicting the martyrdoms of St Thomas of Canterbury and St Thomas of Pontefract. Although much damaged they are still clear, and indicate how some at least saw Thomas of Lancaster in the years after his death. The painting were apparently commissioned by a retainer of the Earl.

I have long known of the South Newington painting from photographs, but it was only in recent years that I got to see it whilst on an historic church-crawl with Fr Jerome Bertram of the Oxford Oratory in 2005. The visit was a great delight, to see the painting after so many years, and all the others that survive in the church. There is an article about them here , whence comes the illustration I have copied.

There also survives in the British Museum a large lead openwork plaque in the style of the pilgrim badges from the period depicting scenes from the life and death of Thomas. This presumably was made in some numbers for churches or private devotion.

A long time ago I saw a copy of a drawing of a medieval vestment orphrey depicting Thomas - I ought to check up on this, but I think it was taken from the publications of the Society of Antiquaries.

Here in Oxfordshire there may be another link. In the very intersting church at Stanton Harcourt are the remains of the shrine base of St Edburga from Bicester Priory. This dates from Thomas' lifetime. On the base are a series of coats of arms with small heads above them. I think that these may well be meant to portray the owners of the arms and the two on the right in this photograph are the arms of Earl Thomas and of his wife, Alice , with a male and a female head above them.


The shrine of St Edburga
The possible portraits of Earl Thomas and Countess Alice are on the right

Image:Nash Ford publications

This is one of those pieces of antiquarian research I keep meaning to do some more research on and write up for a suitable academic journal.

Monday 21 March 2011

Diaconal Ordination at the Oxford Oratory

The Oxford Oratory website now has a set of pictures of the diaconal ordination of Br Nicholas Edmonds-Smith which took place last Friday.


The laying on of hands

The whole series can be viewed here.

The liturgy was impressive, the congregation large, the party afterwards enjoyable. A good step forwards for Br Nicholas, and for the Oratory and the community it serves. Please keep them all in your prayers.

L'Union fait La Force

The continuing inability of Belgian politicians from the two languaphone communities to agree means that the Kingdom of the Belgians continues with a caretaker government. This continuing crisis, or crises, highlights the role of the King in holding the country together, and means that those who want to destroy the country inevitibly attack the monarchy.


The Belgian Royal Arms

Image: Wikipedia

My own suspicion is that the two communities threaten secession in order to get what they want, but if the point was finally reaches of making achoice they would remain together. Despite being created in its present form only in 1830-31 Belgium has amuch longer history as political unit under Austrian and before that Spanish Habsburg rule, and before that as the Duchy of Burgundy. It has always had political tensions from competing communities in association one with another. It is not in the interests of other European counties with lingusitic or other ethnic divisions - the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, even Switzerland - to see it fall apart.

As was demonstrated by the public show of mourning at the death of King Baudouin in 1993 support for the unity of the kingdom is not to be discounted, as well as being a sign of the respect shown to a King who was seen as a faithful steward of the difficult inheritanc ehe had received.

The Cross of Laeken is a blog devoted to supporting the Belgian monarchy, and answering its detractors. I see that it very kindly links to this blog and I have added it to the list at the side as well as the official website of the Belgian Monarchy.

Saturday 19 March 2011

St Joseph's Church Pontefract

As today is the Solemnity of St Joseph I thought I would write something about the Catholic church in my home town of Pontefract, which is dedicated to him.

St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church, Pontefract

St Joseph's Church Pontefract from the south east

Photograph supplied by and Copyright of Bill Henderson.

As the church is close to my old home it was a building that I saw virtually every day, although, being an Anglican in those days, I think I was twenty three before I ever set foot in it.

It was built in 1806 to serve the long standing local recusant community, and architecturally resembles a nonconformist chapel rather than a church. At the east end and underneath the church, which is on the first floor is the presbytery. The structure is brick built, but is now covered with rendering. Inside the church is rather plain, with vaguely Neo-Classical details. I never saw it before its post-Vatican II reordering, but from pictures I have seen it had acquired some mock- gothic furnishings which have now gone.

As a local historian I became interested in local recusant history and used the typescript history kept at the church and compiled by the last of that tradition, Edward Woodcock. Since I used it that has apparently been lost, but I hope a copy does survive - there may, perhaps, be a copy in the diocesan archives. The photocopy I obtained for the local library has, I understand, been destroyed in an excess of zeal for copyright. It contained some fascinating oral tradition about Catholicism in the area in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries as well as material about the Jesuit mission in the town. The parish has a continuous history from the reign of King James II, when it was very active, and was run by the Jesuits until 1890.

Friday 18 March 2011

The Diaconate

This evening Br Nicholas Edmonds-Smith C.O. will be ordained as a Deacon at the Oxford Oratory by Bishop William Kenney, titular Bishiop of Midica and assistant bishop in the Archdiocese of Birmingham. Not only is this an occasion upon which to pray for Br Nicholas and his future ministry, but also to reflect upon ministerial order.

The traditional seven stages of ordained ministry

Image: New Liturgical Movement

Back in January Fr Hunwicke posted a series of articles on the nature of the diaconate, and in particular emphasising that its real function is liturgical rather than, as has often been argued since Vatican II, designed as a welfare ministry. His five articles can be read here as follows Diaconia (1) , Diaconia (2) , Dicaconia (3) , Diaconia (4) and Diaconia (5) at Vatican II and later.

Please pary for Br. Nicholas and all others approaching diaconal ordination.

Thursday 17 March 2011


As the Personal Ordinariate of our Lady of Walsingham begins to take shape in reality with the preparations for the reception of individuals at Easter we have a further sign of Papal approbation with the appointments of the first three of its priests as Monsignori as reported in this Catholic Herald article

Fr Blake has an excellent riposte to a liberal catholic sceptic about the Ordinariate which can be read here. Dr William Oddie has a blog post on his Catholic Herald site about the way in which already the Catholic Church has taken on the Anglican patrimony by using translations of ancient hymns by John Mason Neale, and sees that as an example of how mutual enrichment can work. It can be read here.

All in all, things are looking good on the Ordinariate front.

The Order of St Patrick

Today being St Patrick's Day it seems very appropriate to write something about the Most Illustrious Order of St Patrick which was inaugurated on this day in 1783 by King George III, and founded as the Irish equivalent of the Orders of the Garter and the Thistle.

It was clearly an early result of the era following the repeal of Poyning' s law and the political process associated with Grattan's parliament , that ended with the 1798 rebellion and the Union of 1801.

There is a very good article about the Order, its history and its insignia here and there is another article which deals with the origin of the colour of the riband - St Patrick's blue - here. The design of the collar and star were clearly inspired by those of the Order of the Garter

File:Insignia of Knight of St Patrick.jpg

The Collar and Star of the Order of St Patrick

Image: Wikipedia


The star of the Order


The riband and badge

Mantle and Collar

The mantle and collar

Images: medal.org

After the 1921 treaty the only conferments were on members of the Royal Family - the Prince of Wales in 1922, the Duke of Gloucester in 1934 and the Duke of York in 1936. The last non-royal knight died in the 1950s and with the death of the Duke of Gloucester in 1974 no members apart from the Sovereign - who still lists the Order on the British Monarchy website. The star of the Order is still the badge of the Irish Guards.

As the Wikipedia article shows there has been periodically talk of reviving the Order, but it has not, so far, happened. I very much regret the dormancy of the Order and would very much want to see it revived.

I wonder if the Order might have continued to have appointments other than the three Princely ones had the Monarch been in sole exercise of the fount of honour at that time. Until the Attlee government appointments to the Orders of the Garter and Thistle (and by implication the Patrick) were on the nomination of the Prime Minister to the Sovereign. Attlee returned exclusive control to the King - the point is described in Sir John Wheeler-Bennett's biography of King George VI. Had it not been a political matter appointments might have continued both for Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom, and indeed for the southern part of Ireland which was still under the King's official authority until at least 1936-7, and in certain respects to 1949. Such was the curious position of the status of the southern part of Ireland after 1922 that the King's title within the United Kingdom was not changed until 1927 to reflect the change resulting from the 1921 treaty.

The forthcoming visit to Dublin by The Queen will highlight the numerous and unresolved constitutional ambiguities and ambivalences between the governments based in London and Dublin. I will write more about those points on another occasion.

The still unsolved theft of the Irish Crown jewels - actually the jewelled star and sash badge worn by the Sovereign or the Lord Lieutenant as Grand Master of the Order - in 1907 is discussed in the following articles which can be read here, here, here and here. That retains its fascination as a story because of its lack of a solution, or recovery of the jewels, the hints of political intrigue behind an official 'cover - up', and the period glamour of a detective story set in Edwardian high society.

Wednesday 16 March 2011

Ashes and Ash Wednesday

Although we are a week into Lent there is an interesting article about the imposition of ashes on Ash Wednesday by Fr Edward McNamara on the latest Zenit page ( Zenit 110315 ) which I have adapted slightly and illustrated as follows:

Historically, the use of ashes as a sign of penance is already found in the Old Testament, and even Jesus speaks of the necessity of some sinners to do penance in sackcloth and ashes (Matthew 11:21). Tertullian, saints Cyprian, Ambrose, Jerome, Augustine, and many other Church Fathers make frequent reference to this practice, especially in relationship with the practice of beginning a period of public penance for grave sins.

Apart from the relatively few public penitents, many other devout Christians confessed at the beginning of Lent so as to be able to receive daily Communion during this season and asked to be covered with ashes as a sign of humility after having received absolution. In the year 1091 Pope Urban II recommended this practice to both clergy and laity. Subsequently the rite of blessing and imposing the ashes became generalized and swiftly assumed considerable importance in the liturgical life of the faithful. At first, the rite was separate from Mass but eventually entered into the Mass itself around the 12th century.

It remained a rite technically seperate until the Novus Ordo missal was introduced. As with other ceremonies such as those at Candlemas as also with weddings, the ritual action preceded the celebration of Mass, rather than being comprehended by it as in the Novus Ordo.

The imposition of ashes at St Mary Magdalen Brighton last week

Initially, men received ashes sprinkled upon the crown of the head, while the ashes were imposed upon women by making a sign of the cross on the forehead. This difference probably stems from the simple fact that women were obliged to keep their heads covered in church.

Today, the mode of imposing ashes varies from country to country according to custom. In most English-speaking countries water is added to the ashes to form a paste which is imposed by making a sign of the cross on the forehead. Many Catholics leave the mark of the ashes unwashed during the day as an outward testimony of their faith.

In much of Italy and in some other Romance-language countries, water is not added to the ashes. Rather, the ashes are imposed by making a sign of the cross above the crown of the head as the ashes fall upon the hair. This method has the advantage of capturing better the idea of ashes as dust, but does not leave a visible sign that can last during the day.

The use of a stamp as in some US parishes would appear to be motivated by a desire to maintain the sign during the day, even though this is merely an incidental, albeit positive, aspect of one particular mode of imposition. The danger is that this process could detract from what is essential to the ritual gesture, the act of receiving the imposition of ashes as a sign of personal penance and conversion.

Ordinariate statistics

I have copied this from the blog of Fr Ray Blake:

From the Ordinariate Portal:

From a variety of official sources, here are some basic statistics about the Ordinariate:

795 candidates for the Ordinariate were present at Rite of Election services in 2011.

61 former Anglican clergy are hoping to be ordained for the Ordinariate this year.

The area covered by the Diocese of Brentwood has the largest proportion of the Ordinariate (240).

16.8% of those entering the Catholic Church in England and Wales this year are joining the Personal Ordinariate.

Compared to dioceses, the Ordinariate is the second largest source for new Catholics in England and Wales this year.

In the area covered by Plymouth Diocese, the Ordinariate is responsible for 42.9% of new Catholics.

There is an Ordinariate presence in 12 out of the 22 dioceses in England and Wales (c. 54%).

Tuesday 15 March 2011

Taxonomy of Trids

A friend has sent me the link to this post, Taxonomy of Trids, saying he recognises himself as a 1965 Trid. Reading it I certainly recognise the types, and, apart from being unable to sing myself, see myself and others I know in the Angl-Catholic convert group. Read it for yourselves and see how you or your friends match up to the descriptions. 

Mass in York Minster

The New Liturgical Movement has a report by Br Lawrence Lew OP about a celebration of Mass in the Extraordinary Form at the High Altar of York Minster on March 26th which can be read here.

As the comments on the post point out this is not the first time Mass has been celebrated according to the Roman Rite has been celebrated in the Minster since 1559, but it is the first occasion for the High Altar to be used, or for the Mass to be in the usus antiquior. I attended a similar Mass at High Altar of Winchester Cathedral in 2008.


The present High Altar of York Minster

Image: pko6390 on Flickr

This year is the 650th anniversary of the beginning of the rebuilding by Archbishop John Thoresby of the choir arm of the Minster in 1361. In the later middle ages and indeed until the eighteenth century the High Altar was a bay to the west of where it is today, and was therefore lit by the two vestigial choir transepts with their great windows telling the stories of St Cuthbert and St William. Behind the altar was a wooden reredos, like that of Westminster Abbey, and what is now the sanctuary formed the shrine chapel of St William (d.1154), with the open stone screen closing it off from the Lady Chapel and the great east window of 1405-8 beyond.

The prospect of this Mass in the Minster reminds me of a story my parents and I were told when I was very young. There always appears to be some scaffolding on the Minster due to the continuous need to maintain and repair so vast and complex a building. However we were told that if there was not scaffolding on the Minster "the Catholics could claim it back." Perhaps someone had better check on a week on Saturday as to the presence or otherwise of scaffolding on the building.

More on the Westminster chasuble at Wardour

Earlier this month I posted about the Westminster chasuble at Wardour and I now see that the New Liturgical Movement has a piece about it with a much better photograph than the one I managed to find. The article can be viewed here.

The accompanying notes show how the vestment ihas been assembled from two seperate ones. The main fabric can be associated with Catherine of Aragon's marriages at the beginning of the sixteenth century, but the embroidered orphreys are a generation older and appear to be linked, through Bishop Richard Beauchamp of Salisbury, with the marriage, which he performed, of Margaret of York, sister of King Edward IV, to Charles Duke of Burgundy in 1468 (not 1408 as it says on NLM).

Bishop Beauchamp was very much associated with the Yorkist court, and he is depicted on a particularly interesting and splendid roof boss of St George's Chapel Windsor kneeling with King Edward IV before one of the great relics of the chapel, the Welsh Cross Gneth. There is a picture and an article about the boss and the Cross Gneth here. As Bishop of Salisbury from 1450-81 and ex officio the Chancellor of the Order of the Garter the Bishop was extensively involved the the King's rebuilding of the chapel in the 1470s.

Monday 14 March 2011

Ash Wednesday images

In my post Ash Wednesday I wrote about serving the Mass at SS Gregory and Augustine, and I have now found a set of photographs of the liturgy:


They were taken by the Chairman of the Latin Mass Society, Dr Joseph Shaw, and can be viewed by following the link from his report, which is here.

I have found two other sets of photographs of Ash Wednesday liturgies last week in the usus antiquior online. Fr Blake has pictures on his blog of the Mass he celebrated at St Mary Magdalen Brighton and they can be seen here.

For something really rather more grand than either Oxford or Brighton could do, the New Liturgical Movement has a set of pictures of Cardinal Burke celebrating a pontifical Mass at St Brigid's church, Marrickville, Sydney and they can be seen here.

Empress Zita

Today is the anniversary of the death of the Empress Zita of Austria in 1989.

The cause for her beatification has been introduced and the Empress Zita cause website gives details.

The following video is a photographic biography of the Empress Queen:

Sunday 13 March 2011


Last November I wrote a post aboutThe Westminster pavement which linked to an article by the artist David Clayton. He has now followed that with a piece on the New Liturgical Movement about the Quincunx, a central element in the design of that and other cosmatesque pavements. His post can be read here.


The Quincunx in the cosmati pavement of Sants Cecilia in Trastevere

In England, apart from the great medieval Westminster pavement, a modern cosmati floor can be seem in the sanctuary of Buckfast Abbey.

Saturday 12 March 2011

Oxford Ordinariate meeting

At teatime today I went along as a friend and supporter to the first of the catechetical meetings of the Oxford group of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham which was led by Fr Andrew Burnham and held at the Oxford Oratory.


It was a pleasure to see a group with a wide age range and which included several old friends who are undertaking this process of preparation for reception on the Wednesday of Holy Week, and to join with other convert friends in helping to extend the hand of welcome and support.

The group was greeted by Fr Daniel, the Provost of the Oxford Oratory, who spoke about St Philip Neri and the Oratorian tradition, before Fr Burnham spoke about the role of the three historic Creeds in the worshipping life of the Church.

I hope to attend other of these meetings, and commend to readers prayers all those who are planning to enter the Ordinariate. Some friends have asked me if I would join it. Having been received almost six years ago into full peace and communion with the Catholic Church, and having quickly settled therein I shall not be seeking a move, but I would be very happy to attend the Masses offered within the Ordinariate and to help in any way I could.

Eternal Father, we place before you
the project of forming the Personal Ordinariates
for Anglicans seeking full communion with the Catholic Church.
Web rthank you for this initiative of Pope Benedict XVI,
and we ask that, through the Holy Spirit,
the Ordinariates may become
families of charity, peace and the service of the poor,
centres for Christian unity and reconciliation,
coomunities that welcome and evangelize, teaching the Faith in all its fullness,
celebrating the liturgy and sacraments with prayerful reverence
and maintaining adistinctive patrimony of Christian faith and culture.

Drawing on that heritage we pray

Go before us, O Lord,
in all our doings
with thy most gracious favour,
and further us
with thy continual help;
that in all our works, begun, continued and ended in thess,
we may glorify thy holy name,
and finally by thy mercy
obtain everlasting life:
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Our Lady of Walsingham:
Pray for us as we claim your motherly care.

Saint Therese of the Infant Jesus:
Pray for us as we place this work under your patronage.

Blessed John Henry Newman:
Pray that Christ's Heart may speak unto our hearts.

Saints and Martyrs of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland:
Pray for us and accompany us on our pilgrim way.

A prayer distributed at the meeting.

St Gregory the Great

My post the other day about folded chasubles included an illustration of St Gregory the Great, which reminded me that today is the anniversary of his death in 604, and used to be his feast day until 1970, when it was transferred to September 3rd. It is still his feast day in the missal used for the Extraordinary Form of Mass. Given his importance to English Christianity it seemed a pity not to post something about him today.

He must be accounted as one of the most influential of all the Popes, not merely because of the English mission sent under St Augustine in 596-7, but also because of his development of the Papal office in practical terms, his contribution to the liturgy and music of the Church and his writings as one of the Latin Doctors of the Church.

The picture below, which prompted this post, shows Pope St. Gregory the Great standing between his father, Gordianus, and his mother Silvia. It is an engraving of a now lost original which must be datable to his pontificate of 590-604 as he is shown with a square nimbus, indicationg that he was alive when the work was done. It is, I think, the only surviving contemporary picture of him to be known.

Image:New Liturgical Movement

I found two other images online from a somewhat later date. The first, from the thirteenth century, shows the Dove of the Holy Spirit speaking into his ear of Saint Gregory the Great to indicate the inspired nature of his writing. He appears to be shown wearing the early form of the Papal crown rather than a mitre.

The second one looks to be earlier in date, but again shows St Gregory being inspired by the Holy Spirit and dictating to a scribe. This is one of several similar depictions of him to survive from the Carolingian and Ottonian eras.

Images: Marcello Ciai

May St Gregory continue to pray for the Church in England and for the life of the Church as a whole.

May we continue to be grateful for his contribution to the life of the Church and especially to that of this country.

Friday 11 March 2011

St John Chrysostom on prayer

I always enjoy reading the sermons of St John Chrysostom when they appear in the Divine Office - one can appreciate why he became known as "Golden Mouth."

St John Chrysostom
From an eleventh century mosaic in Hagia Sophia

Image: Wikipedia

Today's second reading is by him, although the Universalis website, from which I have copied the text assigns it to "Pseudo-Chrysostom''. This may reflect research done since the present Divine Office was complied and printed. However that does not detract from the content of the passage:

Prayer is the light of the soul

The highest good is prayer and conversation with God, because it means that we are in God’s company and in union with him. When light enters our bodily eyes our eyesight is sharpened; when a soul is intent on God, God’s inextinguishable light shines into it and makes it bright and clear. I am talking, of course, of prayer that comes from the heart and not from routine: not the prayer that is assigned to particular days or particular moments in time, but the prayer that happens continuously by day and by night.

Indeed the soul should not only turn to God at times of explicit prayer. Whatever we are engaged in, whether it is care for the poor, or some other duty, or some act of generosity, we should remember God and long for God. The love of God will be as salt is to food, making our actions into a perfect dish to set before the Lord of all things. Then it is right that we should receive the fruits of our labours, overflowing onto us through all eternity, if we have been offering them to him throughout our lives.

Prayer is the light of the soul, true knowledge of God, a mediator between God and men. Prayer lifts the soul into the heavens where it hugs God in an indescribable embrace. The soul seeks the milk of God like a baby crying for the breast. It fulfils its own vows and receives in exchange gifts better than anything that can be seen or imagined.

Prayer is a go-between linking us to God. It gives joy to the soul and calms its emotions. I warn you, though: do not imagine that prayer is simply words. Prayer is the desire for God, an indescribable devotion, not given by man but brought about by God’s grace. As St Paul says:
For when we cannot choose words in order to pray properly, the Spirit himself intercedes on our behalf in a way that could never be put into words.

If God gives to someone the gift of such prayer, it is a gift of imperishable riches, a heavenly food that satisfies the spirit. Whoever tastes that food catches fire and his soul burns for ever with desire for the Lord.

To begin on this path, start by adorning your house with modesty and humility. Make it shine brightly with the light of justice. Decorate it with the gold leaf of good works, with the jewels of faithfulness and greatness of heart. Finally, to make the house perfect, raise a gable above it all, a gable of prayer. Thus you will have prepared a pure and sparkling house for the Lord. Receive the Lord into this royal and splendid dwelling — in other words: receive, by his grace, his image into the temple of your soul.

Thursday 10 March 2011

Lent reading plan

Every Lent I mean to do more spiritual reading and more often than not that good intention goes the way of most good intentions...

This year I am more hopeful as we have agreed that the Brothers of the Oratory here in Oxford would aim to read the Pope's new book Jesus of Nazareth - Holy Week as part of our Lenten discipline.

On the basis of my other reading of his work, I am really looking forward to doing so.

Otherwise I would like to read some more of the work of St Teresa of Avila, and to learn more about her.

St Teresa of Ávila
by Peter Paul Rubens
Image: Wikipedia

A friend has lent me the biography by Marcelle Auclair, and I recently got a copy of the saint's letters, as well as E Allison Peers' introduction to the Spanish mystics, so I hope to become a little more knowlegeable over the next few weeks. I am attracted by St Teresa's sanctified common sense.

For other reading - and I rather doubt if it will happen in my case - I see from the Hermeneutic of Continuity that Fr Bryan Jerabek has updated the pages of his Lenten Reading Plans to give this year's dates. These reading plans are provided to assist people with their daily meditation. There are four plans with readings from the Fathers, Lives of the Saints, Newman/Faber, and St John Vianney. Last year I started on the Patristic series, and found it an excellent scheme, but once one misses a day or two it becomes well nigh impossible to catch up. However I may try to follow the series again.

Folded chasubles

As I thought the other week, and it being this time of year, the issue of Folded Chasubles and the Broad Stole has returned to my mind and to those of others.

The New Liturgical Movement has reissued an excellent article about the history and use of these particular vestments which it first carried in 2009. It is a lengthy piece, but very well worth reading, and can be found here.

Readers will doubtless not be surprised that I would be very pleased to see the return of these historic forms of the vestment for penitential occasions. They are part of the liturgical heritage of the Church, and their loss was one of the early symptoms of change for change's sake.

Ash Wednesday

I served as thurifer at the Extraordinary Form Mass at SS Gregory and Augustine yesterday evening - indeed I seem to be regularly wielding the thurible there on such occasions these days.

The congregation was drawn not just from the regular aficionados of the usus antiquior and members of the new Juventutum group but also local parishioners, which is a good sign of the growing reception of this form of the rite.

What is clear is the enthusiasm of many younger Catholics for the traditional forms of worship. Oxford, of course, may not be typical, but it is not only here that there is such a response.

I know myself that I have increasingly felt drawn more and more to the usus antiquior, not just because it is the historic form, but because it seems more prayerful, more able to draw one heavenwards. With the Oratory being here in the city I feel rather spoiled as there the novus ordo is celebrated in a style that utilises the practice of centuries in the service of the newer form of the rite, as well as celebrations from the missal of John XXIII.

Looking back over Septuagesima, or what was once Septuagesima, I regret its disappearance from the Ordinary Form, and looking through a pre-1955 Missal I am more inclined to share in voicing the opinion not only that the usus antiquior is, for me, the preferred form, but that the debate about that has to include looking to a recovery of t least some those things lost in the years after 1955 when the process of attrition began. That is not to deny the right of a living tradition to develop, but, being a living tradition involves the retention of the constituent elements, not their piecemeal erosion

Tuesday 8 March 2011

Reflections on the Ordinariate

As Ash Wednesday approaches and those Anglicans who plan to be received into the Ordinariate at Easter prepare to take those first crucial steps I would assure them of my prayers and support.

My good friend the Last Knight has an excellent reflection on the situation facing Anglo-Catholics on his blog The Noise of the Crusade. He draws together theology and practical politics to review the situation, and his post, which I would recommend, can be read here

Another former Anglican who blogs as
When the Patriarch was returning has a piece he posted back in January about the nature of Anglican patrimony which can be read here. I think I would largely concur with his reflections as to the beauty of that strand of Anglican liturgy. 

Fr Hunwicke's Liturgical Notes has a restrained but eloquent post about the events on Quinquagesima Sunday at St Thomas church here in Oxford which you can read here. As I commented on Fr Hunwicke's blog may St Thomas intercede for them at this time.